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US dares procurers on professionalism

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By Taonga Sabola:

United States Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, on Friday challenged procurement professionals to exercise professionalism when conducting their duties as one way of avoiding scandals.

Palmer was speaking in Mangochi District, at the start of the 2018 Malawi Institute of Purchasing and Supply (Mips) annual conference held under the theme ‘Transformational Leadership in Procurement and Supply Chain: A Catalyst for Economic Development’.

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Palmer said procurers could help firms as well as the country to save money.

“Rules-based systems save real money by introducing genuine competition. This is important for both companies and governments, particularly in the developing world where public procurement accounts for more than 30 percent of GDP compared to 10-15 percent in developed countries.

“You protect your organisations from sourcing risks, avoiding environmental problems and reputational damage. And, as you do this, you can change social norms – ensuring, for example, that the tobacco you buy isn’t picked by children or using forced labour. You can use your purchasing power to ensure the goods you purchase aren’t harming the environment,” Palmer said.

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She added that decisions about procurement do not only make money but also affect who makes money.

“For example, if the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) can buy grain immediately after harvest, there are enormous benefits for small farmers. If they wait, poor farmers are often forced to sell at low prices to traders who are the only beneficiaries when markets open late.

“As trusted advisors to government and businesses, procurement professionals can help to drive supplier innovation and reduce supply-chain risk. Procurements can be structured to achieve social and development outcomes, contributing, for example, to increased small and medium enterprises (SMEs) business and job creation,” Palmer said.

She added that corruption poses a serious threat to growth of the procurement profession in the country.

Palmer cited examples of restricted tenders issued when there is no urgency requiring limits on potential bidders as well as contracts being awarded without proper feasibility or environmental impact studies as some deals which raise eyebrows.

She said, if procurers are not honest, “then your organisations’ bottom lines will suffer and people will lose their jobs; then the Malawian government won’t get the best deal for the Malawian taxpayer. Donor and investor confidence will be eroded. Public trust in government institutions will be weakened.

“Roads can be built to nowhere, natural resources depleted and communities displaced. There won’t be money in the exchequer to pay teachers and police, keep the lights on in hospitals, or provide life-saving drugs. People’s lives are on the line”.

Mips President, Joseph Ngalawa, said his organisation realizes that taking a transformational approach to leadership regarding how procurement issues ought to be handled could bring about long term change in the attainment of organisational objectives and goals.

Ngalawa said, for a long time, organisations have taken procurement as a mere clerical job that anyone can do rather than a strategic function that can help organisations to achieve their strategic goals and obtain value for money in all procurement and supply transactions.

“This misconception is retarding progress of the profession and also organisational development. I am excited, however, that we now have the Mips Act No. 3 of 2016 and the Regulations that, with proper lobbying, awareness and enforcement, this misconception should be a thing of the past.

“It is disappointing that when organisations want to restructure and reduce staff, the first candidates are procurement personnel. When people miserably fail elsewhere, be it human resource, marketing, research and development, engineering, finance and many other functions, the first dumping location for these people are the procurement and supply function. We are saying no to this. Enough is enough. We have our own professionals who can do the job better and add value to business operations,” Ngalawa said.

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